Bills Rumors

Patriots Reportedly Made Strong Push for WR Xavier Worthy

The Patriots, in an effort to weaponize their offense and give future starting quarterback Drake Maye some receiving talent whenever he takes the reins, selected two receivers in April’s WR-rich draft: Ja’Lynn Polk (No. 37 overall) and Javon Baker (No. 110 overall). The Polk selection in particular has been the subject of significant discussion among prominent NFL reporters and talking heads.

That has nothing to do with Polk himself. Rather, we heard early last month that New England, which originally held the No. 34 overall pick, had attempted to move up to No. 32 to acquire South Carolina wideout Xavier Legette. And on a recent episode of The Pat McAfee Show, former NFL exec Michael Lombardi said the Patriots were also targeting a different Xavier: Texas receiver and 40-yard dash record holder Xavier Worthy (video link).

The Bills, the original owners of the No. 28 pick, traded that choice to the Chiefs, allowing Buffalo’s playoff tormentors to add Worthy to Patrick Mahomes‘ arsenal. However, Lombardi says that New England was “in high-speed pursuit of Worthy” and “wanted Worthy badly.” Lombardi appears to suggest that while the Patriots made the Bills an offer for the No. 28 choice, Kansas City’s offer — the Nos. 32, 95, and 221 selections in exchange for Nos. 28, 133, and 248 — was more valuable than New England’s.

If that’s the case, one can understand why Bills GM Brandon Beane would have accepted the Chiefs’ proposal, especially since the Patriots and Bills are division rivals. That said, New England is firmly in rebuild mode while Buffalo has immediate championship aspirations and has been repeatedly thwarted by KC in its title pursuits, so handing the Chiefs a player that many believe could become Tyreek Hill 2.0 in Andy Reid‘s offense is a move that will come under plenty of scrutiny should Worthy live up to his potential.

In addition to Worthy, the Bills denied the Patriots a shot at Legette and flipped the No. 32 pick to the Panthers, who moved up one spot to nab the former Gamecock (Buffalo, which had a major WR need of its own, ended up selecting Florida State receiver Keon Coleman with the No. 33 choice that originally belonged to Carolina). After the Chiefs chose Worthy, five wideouts were drafted between Nos. 31 and 37. The Patriots had hoped to move toward the front of that wave, but after Legette went off the board, they stepped back by moving from No. 34 to 37 and landing Polk.

The receivers selected during the late first through early second rounds of the 2024 draft would be compared to each other anyway as their careers unfold, though the fact that multiple clubs were jockeying for position to select specific pass catchers within that window adds another layer of intrigue to those future conversations. At present, it looks as if the Patriots missed out on several of their top targets, but Polk has plenty of upside and may eventually make New England happy that it was unable to swing a draft-day deal with its AFC East foe.

Bills Sign Olympic Gold Medal Wrestler Gable Steveson

The Bills have made an intrigue addition to their offseason roster. The team announced on Firday that Olympic gold medal wrestler Gable Steveson has been signed. He will aim to make the jump to the NFL as a defensive lineman.

Steveson enjoyed a decorated career at Minnesota, winning three conference championships and a pair of national titles. He was named the Big Ten Athlete of the Year in 2022, and twice took home the Dan Hodge Trophy as the nation’s top wrestler. The 24-year-old won gold at the Tokyo Olympics for freestyle wrestling. He joins seventh-round rookie Travis Clayton (a former rugby player drafted in the seventh round in 2024) as a player aiming to lock down a roster spot via an unusual route.

“I have been fortunate to compete at the highest level of competition in my sport but am looking forward to the challenge of seeing how my wrestling skills may translate to football,” Steveson said (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). “I am grateful to [head coach] [Sean] McDermott, [general manager] Brandon Beane and the Buffalo Bills organization for giving me this opportunity.”

Steveson’s agent indicated a recent workout with the Bills led to interest from other NFL teams as well. He has elected to sign with Buffalo, though, a team with a coach (McDermott) who has a background as a high school champion wrestler. The Bills will use the remainder of the offseason to begin what will be a steep development process likely involving time on the practice squad during the 2024 season.

Steveson will attempt to join the likes of Lam Jones and James Jett as athletes who won Olympic gold before playing in the NFL (although the latter two did so as sprinters). Longtime Cowboys wideout Bob Hayes – a member of the United States Olympic Hall of Fame as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame – is the only athlete to win both an Olympic gold and a Super Bowl to date.

In a corresponding move, the Bills released punter Matt Haack. The veteran served as Buffalo’s punter during the 2021 season before moving on to the Colts the following year. He returned this offseason, but today’s move will leave him on the move once again. Veteran Sam Martin and undrafted rookie Jack Browning remain in place as the team’s punting options moving forward.

Bills GM Brandon Beane Addresses Stefon Diggs Trade

The Bills’ receiver room was positioned to undergo change during the early portion of free agency with Gabe Davis expectedly departing on the open market. Buffalo followed that up with the blockbuster deal which sent Stefon Diggs to the Texans.

The Bills originally intended to keep Diggs in the fold for at least one more season, viewing the 30-year-old as still being capable of producing like a No. 1. However, the Texans’ willingness to acquire Diggs (with a return including a 2025 second-round pick) changed Buffalo’s approach. The latter team took on a dead money charge of just over $31MM to move on from Diggs.

Buffalo could have spread that charge out over multiple seasons, but doing so would have limited the team’s spending power in consecutive offseasons. When speaking about the trade, Bills general manager Brandon Beane confirmed an upfront approach with respect to dead money was the team’s preference once the decision was made to move on from Diggs.

“A player of his caliber, you weigh a lot of things in those situations,” Beane said during an appearance on The Athletic Football Show (video link). “But ultimately, we just talked about the cap. I don’t need to go through all the reasons why we decided to go ahead and do that. I would say, from a cap standpoint, we decided just to go ahead and eat it now. We think we can compete and do what we need to do by eating it now. And not next year.

“Because if we didn’t, if we tried to come up with some way to split it up too many different ways, then now it’s just like that albatross hanging on your neck all year. You look at your cap and you’re going, ‘Look how much money we still have dead.'”

The Bills have added a number of new faces at the receiver spot this offseason, including Curtis Samuel, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mack Hollins and Chase Claypool. After trading out of the first round, Buffalo also added Keon Coleman with a selection endorsed by quarterback Josh Allen. Those newcomers, along with returnee Khalil Shakir, will be counted on to replace Diggs and Davis’ production.

Of course, Diggs is now on track for free agency next offseason with Houston having removed the post-2024 years of his contract. The four-time Pro Bowler’s level of play with the Texans will be a key storyline related to this trade, as will its financial implications (or lack thereof, regarding future years) from the Bills’ perspective.

AFC East Rumors: Patriots OL, Saleh, Milano

With veteran left tackle Trent Brown departing in free agency, the Patriots are looking to fill his old role this offseason. As organized team activities have opened, free agent addition Chukwuma Okorafor has been taking first-team snaps at the position, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.

Okorafor, a former third-round pick for the Steelers, has spent the first six years of his NFL career in Pittsburgh. His first two seasons only saw the Nigerian find starting time as an injury replacement. After Okorafor finished out his rookie contract with two straight seasons as a starter, the Steelers rewarded him with a three-year, $29.25MM extension. After losing his starting job to first-round rookie Broderick Jones last year, though, the Steelers released Okorafor to free agency.

Now in New England, Okorafor will have the opportunity to re-earn a starting job and fill in for the departed Brown. Okorafor’s competition for the job will be Vederian Lowe, who started eight games in injury relief for the Patriots last year, and third-round rookie Caedan Wallace out of Penn State.

In additional offensive line news out of New England OTAs, second-year lineman Atonio Mafi was seen taking snaps at center behind starter David Andrews. Mafi, a former fifth-round pick who converted from defensive line to guard at UCLA, had yet to seen time at center while making five starts at left guard as a rookie. New offensive line coach Scott Peters and assistant offensive line coach Robert Kugler seem to have some interest in expanding his role on the line.

Here are some other rumors coming out of the AFC East:

  • We had reported previously that Jets head coach Robert Saleh had explored the idea of reducing the role of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. This exploration came after the seeing Hackett seemingly lost for options after the loss of starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers early in the season. A more recent report from ESPN’s Rich Cimini claims that Saleh is now taking a deeper role in the offense himself. The former defensive coordinator seems to be keeping a close eye over the shoulder of Hackett as their jobs both heat up in 2024.
  • Long-time Bills starting linebacker Matt Milano missed 12 games after suffering a season-ending knee injury last year. The team is looking to pair Milano back up with last year’s emergent starter Terrel Bernard, but that won’t be happening in OTAs. According to Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN, Milano is on schedule with his recovery, but “it’s probably going to be more closer to training camp until” he sees the field again.

Sean McDermott: Bills DC Bobby Babich To Receive Look As Play Caller

Leslie Frazier served as the Bills’ defensive coordinator from 2017-22, but he was away from the team last season and he has not returned for the coming campaign. Buffalo has a replacement in place (Bobby Babich), but it remains to be seen if he will call plays.

Babich – promoted from the role of linebackers coach in January – has been with the team since 2017, and he drew coordinator interest from outside teams during the 2024 hiring cycle. This Buffalo gig represents his first DC posting in the NFL, however, and Babich has not called a defense at either the college or pro levels to this point in his career.

Head coach Sean McDermott called plays last year, and he said earlier this month that a final decision will not be made on that front until at least training camp. Whichever direction the team goes, the coach guiding the unit will face considerable expectations. To little surprise, though, Babich will receive the chance to handle play-calling duties this summer before McDermott elects to either hand over the reins or repeat his workload from 2023.

“There’s going to be intentionality on my part to make sure, whether it’s practice or preseason games, that Bobby’s given that opportunity,” McDermott said, via The Athletic’s Tim Graham (subscription required). “So it’s just a matter of when and for how long.”

It would come as little surprise if Babich were to operate as play caller during Buffalo’s exhibition games in addition to training camp practices. McDermott has plenty of experience in that regard dating back to his own DC tenures, and he guided the Bills to a fourth-place finish in scoring defense last year. The team has generally fared well on that side of the ball during the McDermott era (although their postseason performances have not matched regular season showings), and his familiarity with the role could help as a transition to plenty of new faces is made in 2024.

The likes of Tre’Davious White, Leonard Floyd, Tyrel Dodson, Jordan Poyer and (at least for nowMicah Hyde are no longer in the picture for Buffalo’s defense. One of the team’s top storylines will be their ability to fill the vacancies created by those absences, and the decision on play caller will of course be a key topic to follow during the summer. Babich will receive at least a brief look before McDermott makes a final decision.

Poll: Which Team Is Chiefs’ Top AFC Threat?

Representation in Super Bowls has not stretched wide in the AFC over the past decade. Since 2013, all of four franchises — the Broncos, Patriots, Chiefs and Bengals — have represented the conference in Super Bowls. The NFC in that span has produced seven Super Bowl entrants.

Since 2001, QB-driven graphics regarding Super Bowl participation primarily feature four faces — those of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Patrick Mahomes. An AFC team employing a QB outside that quartet has only reached the Super Bowl three times (2002 Raiders, 2012 Ravens, 2021 Bengals) in 24 seasons. As the NFC has rolled out 21 Super Bowl QB starters since Brady’s first appearance, it has been quite difficult for outsiders to forge a path in the AFC.

This space used to ask which team was best positioned to KO the Patriots in the AFC. The Chiefs ended up getting there, first loading up around Mahomes’ rookie contract before assembling a low-cost (but highly effective) defense to help a team suddenly limited — beyond the Mahomes-Travis Kelce connection’s enduring brilliance — following the Tyreek Hill trade. As the Chiefs aim to become the first team since the mid-1960s Packers to threepeat (part one of Green Bay’s offering occurred before the Super Bowl era), which conference challenger is best built to disrupt their path back?

The AFC North appears a good place to start. The Ravens open the season with an Arrowhead Stadium trek and held the AFC’s No. 1 seed last season. Lamar Jackson skated to MVP honors, and Mike Macdonald‘s defense led the league in scoring. But familiar issues resurfaced for the team in the AFC championship game. An oddly pass-focused Baltimore effort ground to a halt, as Jackson committed two turnovers. Macdonald has since departed — the first Ravens coordinator to leave for a head coaching job since Gary Kubiak in 2015 — and ex-Baltimore linebacker Zach Orr moved into the DC post. The team also lost three starters up front. Although quiet in free agency (in terms of outside hires) beyond the splashy Derrick Henry addition, the Ravens added likely cornerback starter Nate Wiggins in Round 1 and kept Justin Madubuike off the market via the franchise tag and a quick extension.

Cincinnati has shown superior mettle against Kansas City since Joe Burrow‘s arrival, beating the Chiefs thrice in 2022 before falling as both teams battled key injuries in the January 2023 AFC title game. The Bengals losing Burrow in November removed a key obstacle in the Chiefs’ path, but the NFL’s highest-paid player is back. The team also retained Tee Higgins, being the only team left to have a player on the tag, and added new tackles in Trent Brown and Amarius Mims to join Orlando Brown Jr. The team revamped its safety corps by bringing back Vonn Bell and adding ex-Raven Geno Stone. Not many glaring issues are present in Cincinnati’s lineup, with longer-term matters — the receiver situation chief among them — the top roster storylines here.

Creeping into the playoffs despite a host of high-profile injuries on offense, the Browns showed their roster strength by shrugging off the injuries to Deshaun Watson, Nick Chubb and their tackles. Cleveland acquired Jerry Jeudy via trade and then extended him, and other than adding some Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah supporting pieces at linebacker, returns the starters from a No. 1-ranked pass defense. Watson’s struggles, for the most part, since arriving via trade will continue to define where the Browns can venture.

Although the Bills parted with Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, looking past Buffalo — a four-time reigning AFC East champion that defeated the Chiefs in three straight seasons in Kansas City — would probably be a mistake. The Bills made some cost-cutting moves, most notably disbanding its seven-year safety duo of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer (though Hyde remains in play to return), and saw concerning form from Von Miller following his second ACL tear. The Bills also lost Leonard Floyd in free agency. Focus will understandably be aimed at Buffalo’s WR crew, which now houses Curtis Samuel, second-rounder Keon Coleman and ex-Chief Marquez Valdes-Scantling (who certainly places a premium on QB talent). The Chiefs’ issues staffing their wideout spots last year provided a lingering problem; will the Bills make a higher-profile addition down the line?

With their backs to the wall, the Joe DouglasRobert Saleh regime will count on Aaron Rodgers belatedly delivering. The duo may or may not have attempted to strip power from OC Nathaniel Hackett, who is coming off a brutal two-year stretch. The Jets effectively replaced Bryce Huff with a more proven rusher in Haason Reddick and added Mike Williams as a supporting-caster on offense. The team will hope its pair of 33-year-old tackles — Tyron Smith, Morgan Moses — holds up, while Olu Fashanu looms as a long term tackle piece and potential short-term guard. Can the Jets do enough offensively to capitalize on their defensive nucleus of the past two seasons?

The Texans sit as a fascinating piece of this puzzle, given their outlook going into the first three seasons of Nick Caserio‘s GM tenure. After low-key offseasons from 2021-23, Houston added Diggs and a few notable defenders to the DeMeco Ryans-led roster. Danielle Hunter and Denico Autry join ex-Ryans 49ers pupil Azeez Al-Shaair as key defensive additions. Although Diggs struggled down the stretch in his final Bills season, he certainly played a lead role in elevating Josh Allen‘s stature. The Texans, who have C.J. Stroud on a rookie deal through at least 2025, will hope the Pro Bowler pairs well with Nico Collins and the returning Tank Dell.

Miami and Jacksonville’s roster equations figure to change soon, as respective extension talks with Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence are ongoing. The Dolphins have faded badly under Mike McDaniel and did not seriously threaten the Chiefs in a frigid wild-card game, though they have obviously shown elite offensive capabilities in the right environment. Handing the play-calling reins to OC Press Taylor in 2023, the Jaguars did not build on a strong 2022 finish. The Steelers also present one of the highest floors in NFL history, and they have upgraded at quarterback by adding two options — in Justin Fields and likely starter Russell Wilson. But they also have not won a playoff game since the six-field goal offering against the Chiefs — a game that represented the final shove for Kansas City to trade up for Mahoemes — seven years ago.

The Texans emerged from the NFL’s basement last season. Is there a stealth contender lurking? The Chiefs’ division does not look particularly imposing, once again, though Jim Harbaugh now overseeing Justin Herbert is certainly an interesting development. The national championship-winning HC has authored turnarounds everywhere he has gone.

No team has qualified for five Super Bowls in a six-year period, and none of the Super Bowl era’s threepeat efforts have reached the final stage; the 1990 49ers came closest, losing on a last-second field goal in the NFC title game. Who is poised to be the best Chiefs deterrent on their path to a threepeat? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your AFC thoughts in the comments section.

AFC East Notes: Bills, Hackett, Dolphins

Terry and Kim Pegula shared equal ownership of the Bills upon buying the team in 2014, but the heart attack Kim suffered in June 2022 has brought a belated update to that status. A February 2023 Terry Pegula filing led to Kim being ruled incapacitated and her husband serving as her guardian, according to The Athletic’s Tim Graham (subscription required). Kim Pegula is not expected to be back with the Bills, Graham reports. Days after the ruling, Laura Pegula — Terry’s daughter from his first marriage — represented the Bills at owners meetings. Soon after, Terry transferred a “small percentage” of the team to Laura to comply with NFL rules regarding succession planning, Graham adds.

While this is an obviously concerning update regarding the health of Kim Pegula, 54, Graham indicates many Bills employees are in the dark about her prognosis and Laura Pegula’s role. Each May, teams are required to have succession plans in place. Previously, Kim was set to act as Bills principal owner as a bridge to the couple’s children; Terry is 73. The succession setup may soon become an issue. Bills employees had assumed tennis prodigy Jessica Pegula, Kim’s oldest child and the WTA’s No. 5-ranked player, and her husband, Taylor Gahagen, would eventually run the team. Jessica wrote a Players’ Tribune piece about her mother’s condition in February 2023, informing the public Kim had suffered brain damage from the heart attack. Months after that column, Graham reports Gahagen had been removed from his position as Bills director of corporate development and Laura had been given an equity stake in the franchise.

Remaining in place as CEO of the Bills and Buffalo Sabres, Terry Pegula has not answered questions publicly about the team since 2019. This update certainly calls into question, particularly in light of how the Broncos ended up being sold, the 11th-year owner’s succession view. Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Nathaniel Hackett believes, despite reports the Jets attempted to have some his power stripped this offseason, Robert Saleh still has full confidence in him as OC. “I don’t know what those reports are and I don’t know where their sources came from,” Hackett said, via SNY. “I know what happened with us. It was great. We had a lot of conversations, got to talk to a lot of different people. It’s that simple. It’s already been addressed. … We had a lot of changes, so we were talking to a lot of people.” No known change to the Jets’ offensive plan came about this offseason, though the team has added some new position coaches. Aaron Rodgers has stumped for Hackett on many occasions, and the duo’s relationship from their Green Bay days is largely why the embattled play-caller remains in place. After a rough year as Broncos HC and losing Rodgers four plays into his debut as Jets OC, Hackett joins Saleh and GM Joe Douglas on the hot seat.
  • The Dolphins will pick up $18.5MM in cap space June 2, after the funds from the Xavien Howard cut become available. The team will not look to free agency to make immediate upgrades, per Mike McDaniel. The third-year Dolphins coach said (via ProFootballNetwork.com’s Adam Beasley) the team — which lost key starters like Howard, Christian Wilkins, Robert Hunt and Jerome Baker this offseason — is “not on the hunt” for FA help.
  • Bills right tackle Spencer Brown will not participate fully in OTAs due to undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, Sean McDermott said (via ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg). The Bills battled injuries at many positions last season, but they were healthy along their offensive front. Brown, who has been the team’s primary RT starter since his 2021 rookie year, played all 17 Buffalo games in 2023.

The Biggest Wide Receiver Contract In Each Team’s History

This offseason has brought changes to the wide receiver market, but a host of wideouts chosen early in the 2020 draft have taken center stage. Additional raises to the WR market’s ceiling are likely on tap, with the Vikings (Justin Jefferson) and Cowboys (CeeDee Lamb) employing a pass catcher due a monster raise.

Most NFL teams have authorized a big-ticket (by today’s standards) deal for a wide receiver. Ranked by guaranteed money and excluding rookie contracts and accords acquired via trade, here is the most lucrative WR deal in each franchise’s history.

Arizona Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald‘s seven-year, $113MM extension (August 2011) holds the Cardinals standard for total value, but Hopkins’ pact checks in higher in terms of guarantees and AAV.

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

In total, Michael Crabtree‘s 2018 deal (worth $21MM) and Derrick Mason‘s 2005 agreement ($20MM) surpass Beckham’s. But the 2023 Baltimore rental’s guarantee came in higher.

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

The Browns have featured three higher-paid receivers on their roster since Landry’s contract, but both Odell Beckham Jr. and Amari Cooper arrived via trade and played on contracts designed by other teams. Jerry Jeudy‘s AAV ($17.5MM) on his 2024 extension also outpaces Landry’s, though the recent trade pickup’s total guarantee falls short here.

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Courtland Sutton‘s 2021 extension carries a higher AAV ($15MM) but included $18.85MM guaranteed.

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

DeAndre Hopkins‘ 2017 re-up included more in total value but a lower AAV and guarantee

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Tyreek Hill‘s 2022 extension tops his teammate for AAV ($30MM) but came in just south for guarantees ($72.2MM)

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s 2023 deal trails Agholor’s in AAV but carried the same full guarantee. Danny Amendola‘s full payout ($28.5MM) in 2013 tops both deals.

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Allen Lazard‘s 2023 deal and Santonio Holmes‘ contract back in 2011 brought more in total value ($44MM and $45MM, respectively) but did not match Davis’ for guarantees.

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Antonio Brown‘s four-year, $68MM extension in 2017 also included a $19MM guarantee at signing but trailed Johnson’s in terms of total guarantees.

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chris Godwin‘s 2022 deal beats Evans’ for at-signing guarantees ($40MM), while the all-time Bucs receiving leader’s 2024 agreement leads the way in AAV ($20.5MM).

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Micah Hyde Will Either Play For Bills Or Retire In 2024

MAY 21: When speaking to the media Tuesday, McDermott confirmed (via 13WHAM’s Dan Fetes) the Bills are still open to a Hyde reunion. With neither side proceeding with much urgency, the potential for a deal could linger well into the offseason. Should Hyde attempt to play in 2024, though, the team is set to welcome him back.

MAY 16: The Bills were down nearly half their starting defense by the time their near-annual Chiefs playoff matchup occurred, but Micah Hyde was one of the cogs available. Hyde returned in 2023 after missing most of the 2022 season due to a neck injury.

Hyde’s second Bills contract — a two-year, $19.25MM extension — expired after the season, and the veteran safety remains a free agent. A pivotal addition in Sean McDermott‘s first offseason, Hyde is not planning to leave Buffalo. Hyde said Thursday (via WGRZ’s Jon Scott) 2024 plans consist of either re-signing with the Bills or retiring. Though, he has not decided on playing again just yet.

I really don’t know,” Hyde said, via the Buffalo News’ Jay Skurski. “You guys know … how difficult it was with my neck and having those stingers. So I just said, let me get away from it a little bit. And if the time comes and the juices get flowing again, then we’ll try to give it a spin. But, there’s no rush at all on my side.”

Hyde, 33, went down in Week 3 of the 2022 season, leading to Damar Hamlin‘s run of starts alongside Jordan Poyer. The seven-year Bills contributor returned last year in what turned out to be his last run with Poyer in Buffalo. Hyde started 14 games and intercepted two passes. Pro Football Focus graded the Iowa alum just outside the top 50 at the position. He also suffered two stingers, missing three games, upon returning from the neck issue. Past his prime, Hyde may see his pledge tested due to the Bills’ offseason activity.

Buffalo released Poyer a year after re-signing him, doing so shortly before re-signing Taylor Rapp. The Bills also added recent Chiefs fill-in starter Mike Edwards. Their most notable safety addition, however, came in the draft; the Bills chose Utah’s Cole Bishop in Round 2. This assortment, which still features Hamlin, stands to complicate a Hyde return. That said, the Bills will be much lighter on experience at this position compared to the past several years.

One of the longest-running safety tandems in modern NFL history, Hyde and Poyer gave the Bills a top-flight back-line duo for seven seasons. Hyde’s neck injury came a year after his second All-Pro season. The Bills made moves to cut costs at several positions this offseason, moving on from Poyer, Mitch Morse, Tre’Davious White and both their top wide receivers (though, the Stefon Diggs move was not exactly a money-saver). That said, Hyde would not qualify — especially given the state of the safety market — as a player who would command too much to return. His lack of desire to play elsewhere obviously would play into the Bills’ hands.

Hyde has been cleared to play, and GM Brandon Beane said earlier this offseason he did not expect the 11-year vet to retire. It appears likely the team will try its current setup at safety, but Hyde not being interested in relocating would stand to give the Bills an insurance option — should the ex-Packer indeed stick to his Buffalo-or-bust pledge — in the event its younger crew underwhelms in the months to come.

AFC Staff Updates: Bills, Patriots, Browns

In the weeks following the 2024 NFL Draft, a number of teams have made changes to their player personnel staff and scouting departments. The Bills, for example, recently announced six updates to a scouting staff that should look fairly different in the coming season.

One of the updates we had seen reported days earlier by Neil Stratton of SucceedinFootball.com, who reported that long-time Cardinals area scout Darius Vinnett would be accepting a similar role in Buffalo. Vinnett had been in Arizona for 11 years and had won the Rod Graves College Scouting Award, given at the conclusion of the draft to the Cardinals’ best scout, in 2022. The team also added Vince Magri as a pro scout after having served most recently as the assistant general manager of the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League.

The rest of the moves were promotions to staffers already in place. Matt Bazirgan, formerly the Bills’ senior personnel executive, has been named director of college scouting. Asil Mulbah, whose pro scout position was filled by Magri, has been promoted to assistant director of pro scouting. Keith Jennings joins Vinnett as an area scout after previously working as the team’s BLESTO scout. Lastly, R.J. Webb, previously a pro scout, will now serve as a college scout and will take up Jennings’ former role as BLESTO scout.

Here are a few other scouting updates from around the AFC:

  • After establishing Eliot Wolf as the pinnacle of their personnel structure the Patriots have made a number of alterations to their staff. According to Stratton, pro scouting director Steve Cargile and area scout Taylor Redd will not be returning for the 2024 NFL season. Cargile had been with New England since 2011, while Redd had been around since 2018, meaning both were around for the team’s most recent Super Bowl victory. Replacing Redd will be new area scout Casey Belongia, previously of the Jaguars. Belongia started his career as an equipment manager for the Packers, residing in Green Bay at the same time as Wolf.
  • Lastly, the Browns are bringing Josh Lucas back to the game as their Mid-Atlantic area scout, per Stratton. Lucas had spent the past two years away from the game of football after serving as the Bears director of player personnel. Prior to his time in Chicago, Lucas had been an area scout for the Saints for 10 years and an intern in Jacksonville.